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Oregon's Post Office Primary


Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and his wife, Michelle, greet a crowd during a rally at Waterfront Park May 18, 2008 in Portland, Ore. (Getty Images)

By Alec MacGillis
Barack Obama made jaws drop when he drew 75,000 people to a rally in Portland, Ore., on Sunday afternoon, making it the largest such event of his campaign and among the largest political rallies in the country's recent history. But the electoral boost he got from drawing so many people two days before primary day -- not to mention from the media coverage of the event -- could be less than expected: tens of thousands of Oregonian votes are already in the mail.

Oregon is the only state in the country to have adopted 100 percent vote-by-mail balloting for its elections, eliminating all polling locations and voting machines. The reform, now in its 10th year, comes with several potential ramifications for a Democratic primary whose outcome may help determine just how much longer Hillary Clinton battles on against Obama.

Many Oregon voters, for one thing, returned their ballots soon after they were sent out on May 1, meaning that they will be unaffected by the final week or two of campaigning, in which Obama spent much more time in the state than Clinton.

Then there is the question of exit polls, which have loomed large in this year's Democratic primaries as candidates have sought to parlay strength with key groups of voters into arguments about electability. Conducting an exit poll of voters who vote by mail provides an unusual challenge; a polling firm will be calling voters to try to get the same demographic and opinion data that they get from voters who leave precincts in other states. It remains to be seen whether those results are given as much weight as bona fide exit polls.

Finally, there is the matter of potential glitches. One has already arisen: In a year in which the Democratic duel generated widespread interest, an unprecedented number of Oregonians decided to switch their registration from Republican or unaffiliated so they could vote in the Democratic primary. More than 90,000 voters switched registrations after Jan. 1, and 72,000 of those switched to the Democratic Party. But tens of thousands of them changed registration so close to the April 29 deadline for doing so that county election officials had already prepared a ballot to send to them under their original registration. And since going back and pulling out those original ballots from the stack would have been too arduous for most counties to do, 33,500 voters ended up receiving two ballots -- one for their old registration and one for their new.

State officials insist that this won't be a big problem. The scanners that will be used tomorrow to count the ballots -- all counting is done on election day, and any unmailed ballots can be dropped off in special drop boxes -- are designed so that if voters do send in both ballots, the scanners will only count the one that was in accord with the voter's new registration status. The bigger concern is that some voters may have been confused by receiving two ballots and ended up either not voting or else casting the ballot under their old registration, which is now invalid. To prevent this, elections officials sent out postcards to the voters in question explaining the situation and tried to get the word out through the media.

Scott Moore, a spokesman for the Oregon secretary of state, said elections officials have received few reports of confusion among voters. Hopefully, he said, voters will make the connection between changing their registration and receiving two ballots, and simply send in the one for the correct party. Proposals to prevent double balloting had some disadvantages, he noted -- the state could have set an earlier deadline for registration changes, but that would have caused complaints in a year in which many voters were interested in switching. Or it could have mailed ballots out later, though that would given residents less time to send the ballots in than they're used to. Finally, counties with enough money could have hired people to help weed out the "old" ballots from the stacks ready to be mailed out -- but that could have raised ballot-security issues.

All in all, he said, the double-balloting problem was more manageable than glitches that arise during traditional voting at polling locations, such as malfunctioning machines or ballot shortages. "It's a mechanical disadvantage that vote by mail has," he said. "But compared to the horror stories you hear about polling place voting, this is a little quirk. It's not great, but we're comfortable with the solution."

Moore also warned against overstating the effect that mail-in voting has on undercutting the effects last-minute campaigning by candidates. For all the ease of being able to toss your ballot into the mailbox a week ahead of time, he said, plenty of late-deciding voters still wait until Election Day to bring their ballots to one of the libraries or municipal offices designated as drop-off locations.

"On Tuesday, you'll have a big long line of cars pulling up to the drop boxes," he said. "People like to wait til the last minute, even though they know that they then have to go down and drop it off."

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 19, 2008; 4:24 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Hillary Rodham Clinton , Primaries  
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Next: Obama, Clinton Treading Gently on the Stump

Comments

Thank you, America. The comments above prove my point about brainwashed masses. Yay, Hillary! Go, Obama! We love our government puppet!

The media and Diebold have selected your candidate for you -- McClintObama -- and you will submit to their program, which will be a continuation of the Bush program -- more war, more IRS and taxes, more Patriot Act and Real ID, more martial law enactment, more outsourcing of jobs and more economic disaster under the Federal Reserve.

So, in 2009, don't come crying to Ron Paul and the couple million of us who warned you. You had your chance.

Posted by: blakmira | May 22, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, America. The comments above prove my point about brainwashed masses. Yay, Hillary! Go, Obama! We love our government puppet!

The media and Diebold have selected your candidate for you -- McClintObama -- and you will submit to their program, which will be a continuation of the Bush program -- more war, more IRS and taxes, more Patriot Act and Real ID, more martial law enactment, more outsourcing of jobs and more economic disaster under the Federal Reserve.

So, in 2009, don't come crying to Ron Paul and the couple million of us who warned you. You had your chance.

Posted by: blakmira | May 22, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, America. The comments above prove my point about brainwashed masses. Yay, Hillary! Go, Obama! We love our government puppet!

The media and Diebold have selected your candidate for you -- McClintObama -- and you will submit to their program, which will be a continuation of the Bush program -- more war, more IRS and taxes, more Patriot Act and Real ID, more martial law enactment, more outsourcing of jobs and more economic disaster under the Federal Reserve.

So, in 2009, don't come crying to Ron Paul and the couple million of us who warned you. You had your chance.

Posted by: blakmira | May 22, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, America. The comments above prove my point about brainwashed masses. Yay, Hillary! Go, Obama! We love our government puppet!

The media and Diebold have selected your candidate for you -- McClintObama -- and you will submit to their program, which will be a continuation of the Bush program -- more war, more IRS and taxes, more Patriot Act and Real ID, more martial law enactment, more outsourcing of jobs and more economic disaster under the Federal Reserve.

So, in 2009, don't come crying to Ron Paul and the couple million of us who warned you. You had your chance.

Posted by: blakmira | May 22, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

The voting system in this country is such a joke. Voting by mail and having the optiscan machines count the votes behind closed doors??

If all of the voting had been above ground on paper ballots in all the primaries, the results would have showed that Ron Paul stood a chance. Instead, the voters are convinced that he can't win and so their second choice is Obama.

Unfortunately, no one can tell you exactly what kind of hope and chance Obama has planned; just more empty rhetoric from a corrupt politician who doesn't write his own speeches.

Too many people vote in this country for who they think will win and not for the only man who speaks the truth, has an urgent message and is the only candidate with integrity and principles.

And with the aid of our rigged voting system, our only option is to get as many Ron Paul supporters into Congress and the Senate as we can.

Posted by: blakmira | May 22, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Obama didn't draw 75,000 - the Decemberists did. The media is so skewed they conveniently forget to mention this detail.

Hillary '08 !

Posted by: In love with Hillary | May 20, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

HILLARY CLINTON IS THE GREATEST CAMPAIGNER IN AMERICAN HISTORY !!!

HILLARY CLINTON CAN BEST WIN IN NOVEMBER:

IT'S ABOUT ELECTABILITY !!!

It's time for everyone to face the truth. Barack Obama has no real chance of winning the national election in November at this time. His crushing defeat in Pennsylvania, and loss in Indiana and West Virginia makes that fact crystal clear. His best, and only real chance of winning in November is on a ticket with Hillary Clinton as her VP.

Sen. Obama has zero chance of winning against the republican attack machine, and their unlimited money, and resources without Hillary Clinton. Zero chance.

It is absolutely essential that the democrats take back the Whitehouse in November. America, and the American people are in a very desperate condition now. And the whole World has been doing all that they can to help keep us propped up.

Hillary Clinton say's that the heat, and decisions in the Whitehouse are much tougher than the ones on the campaign trail. But I think Sen. Obama faces a test of whether he has what it takes to be a commander and chief by facing the difficult facts, and the truth before him. And by doing what is best for the American people by dropping out of the race, and offering his whole hearted assistance to Hillary Clinton to help her take back the Whitehouse for the American people, and the World.

Sen. Obama is a great speaker. And I am confident he can explain to the American people the need, and wisdom of such a personal sacrifice for them. It should be clear to everyone by now that Hillary Clinton is fighting her heart out for the American people. She has known for a long time that Sen. Obama can not win this November. You have to remember that the Clinton's have won the Whitehouse twice before. They know what it takes.

If Sen. Obama fails his test of commander and chief we can only hope that Hillary Clinton can continue her heroic fight for the American people. And that she prevails. She will need all the continual support and help we can give her. She may fight like a superhuman. But she is only human.

Don't be fooled by the pledged delegate, and math arguments. Neither candidate has the necessary pledged delegates. The entire delegates counts, and votes from Florida, and Michigan are not even being counted. Plus the democratic caucuses, and primarys have been heavily corrupted by fraud, and vote cheating. The only relevant question now is who can best WIN IN NOVEMBER and take back the Whitehouse for the American people. And the answer is HILLARY CLINTON. Everyone knows that now.

Sincerely

Jacksmith... Working Class :-)

p.s. Cynthia Ruccia - I'm with ya baby. All the way. "Clinton Supporters Count Too."

Posted by: jacksmith | May 20, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

America loves Obama!

Posted by: Sally | May 20, 2008 12:24 AM | Report abuse

Attention superdelegates, it's time to back Obama, stick a fork in Hillary so the Democrats can ride this wave into the White House.

Posted by: Chirs336 | May 19, 2008 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see this turnout for a man with a brain (unlike Bush, who has only "experience"). Thank God I don't believe everything written about Obama.

Posted by: joy | May 19, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Wow. The election is really heating up now. And the results from this poll say everything. You won't believe these results!

http://www.votenic.com

Posted by: bill | May 19, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JakeD | May 19, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for correcting the record about Obama's "record" crowd -- there have been much larger political rallies -- FDR's announcement in 1932 brought in a crowd over 100,000 in New Jersey (although, to be fair, most of them were unemployed ; )

I am very interested in Oregon's (and Kentucky's) result. Hopefully, Hillary makes it close and can still claim the TOTAL POPULAR VOTE total.

Posted by: JakeD | May 19, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

it sure would have been nice to have a picture of the staggering group, the largest yet in the campaign. why isnt there one i wonder. the largest turn out in political history in the past decade or more? hm...NYT had an image earlier this morning that was beautiful on the front page of the politics page, with obama, Michelle and their children and a great closeup shot of the crow, almost all white. its buried now. i wonder why?

Posted by: Harriet | May 19, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

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